Friday, January 23, 2015

UPDATE 1/23/15

When I was first breaking into comics, everyone I knew was pretty much fixated on Jack Kirby. I always have loved the energy in Jack’s work, and he’s still a big influence on me. But there were so many other really great folks that were under the radar of my generation. One of them was the Spanish artist Carlos Gimenez, who’s work both Walter Simonson and Howard Chaykin introduced me to. 

What struck me was the relatively clean style reminiscent of Wally Wood ( certainly someone Gimenez was looking at), but a sense of fun and whimsy unlike anything I saw in American comics. He also had a wide range, as his stories often centered on the horror of the Spanish Civil War; in fact Guillermo del Toro used him to storyboard what I think is his best film, The Devil’s Backbone. 

Most of the work I saw of Gimenez was in Delta 99 and in Dani Futuro. The latter was certainly my inspiration (the artist word for plagiarism) for a lot of the costumes and characters I used in the Starfire strip I did for DC, as well as some of my independent Linda Lovecraft tales for Star*Reach. I don’t know how many of you comic book fans are aware of the work of Carlos Gimenez, but he is certainly someone to check out.

Mad Mummy #5 finally went off to iVerse this week. It should be up for sale in another few weeks. I was quite proud of the work on this  one…and it was a lot of fun to do.

For years I’ve been using my neighbor Bob Edward’s incredible garden as subjects for my sketchbook, taking the figure studies done in class and adding in cacti and flowers and shrubs at a later date. Lately I’ve been using the growth my lovely wife Annie has planted in our own yard  for models. Nature is certainly the best teacher for discovering form and pattern. (Bob’s partner, by the way, is John Claude Gummoe, who wrote and sang the pop song “Rhythm of the Rain.” They have been good neighbors and better friends for years.)

I have a young assistant, Leyanna Hartonian, who’s been helping me on the Mad Mummy book, doing a lot of the tedious work of setting in blocks on coloring in Photoshop, and typing in and positioning the lettering balloons. Last year I did a seminar at nearby Crescenta Valley HS and Leyanna was one of students. Now she has graduated and is going to Glendale Community College…and has the dubious honor of working with me part time. She brings her enthusiasm to the job and puts up with my constant choice of music. She has also been putting together these blogs for me. Wait till she sees just how much she to scan in for this weeks Update.

Here are some examples of Leyanna's well as some pics
of us hard at work.



Saturday, January 17, 2015

UPDATE 1/17/15

The Annie movie that I worked on has been out for a few weeks. Haven’t seen it. When I was working on this feature I watched the other two versions and was underwhelmed. The John Huston film was just creepy…some really off-putting images for a “kids” movie. The TV version with Kathie Bates was much better, but not something I’d watch if I wasn’t working on a remake. The worst of it was that in neither version is Harold Grey, the creator of the strip , ever mentioned in the credits…only the syndicate that “owned” the strip.

The character was from a poem by James Whitcomb Riley. My mother used to read it me as a kid…with special emphasis on the refrain: And the Goblins will get you, if you don’t watch out. Is it any wonder I grew up with a lot of anxieties? It certainly explains my morbid tastes in literature and movies and comics. 

Little Orphan Annie came to our house to stay,
And wash the cups and saucers up, and brush the crumbs away,
And shoo the chickens off the porch, and dust the hearth, and sweep,
And make the fire, and bake the bread, and earn her board and keep;
And all us other children, when the supper things are done,
We sit around the kitchen fire and have the best of fun
Listening to the scary tales that Annie tells about,
And the Goblins will get you, if you don’t watch out.

Once there was a little boy who wouldn’t say his prayers
And when he went to bed at night, all the way upstairs,
His Mommy heard him holler, and his daddy heard him bawl,
And when they turned the covers down, he wasn’t there at all!
And they searched for him in the attic, and the cubby-hole, and press,
And they searched up the chimney, and everywhere, I guess;
But all they ever found was his pants and round about
And the Goblins will get you, if you don’t watch out.

Once there was a little girl who liked to laugh and grin,

And make fun of everyone, her family and kin
Whenever there was company, and guests were sitting there,
She mocked them and she shocked them, and said she didn’t care!
Suddenly she kicked her heels, and turned to run and hide,
There were two great big Black Things standing by her side,
They snatched her through the ceiling before she knew they were about!
And the Goblins will get you, if you don’t watch out.

And Little Orphan Annie says, when the blaze is blue,

And the lamp-wick sputters, and the wind goes woo-oo!
And you hear the crickets quit, and the moon is gray,
And the lightning bugs in dew are all squenched away
Listen to your parents and your teachers fond and dear,
And cherish those who love you, and dry the orphan’s tear,
And help the poor and needy ones that cluster all about,
Or the Goblins will get you, so you better watch out.

A side note to all of this is that one of the folks I truly admire is Leonard Starr, who after starting out working in comics, went on to a tremendously successful career as an artist and writer, and eventually ended his professional run  working on the Annie comic strip. And while I started out working in comics, I certainly never quite achieved Leonard’s brilliance as a creator, but I did get to finish up my career in films working on Annie. I always tell Leonard that I’d be happy to achieve on my best days what achieved on his ordinary ones.

 (And you might notice I cast myself as the cab driver in this sequence. As with most of these folks, don't look for me in the final film.)

Above are a few frames from one of the sequences I boarded. At the time, Will Smith’s daughter was slated for the film, and Alec Baldwin was to play Daddy Warbucks. It was a fun job for the most part; I had little supervision and was just expected to turn out a few frames a day and was well paid. The best part was that I was working for Aaron Sowd, who is a prince of a fellow. It reiterated one of my cardinal rules: Who you work with is far more important than what your working on or how much you make. 

 That rule also applied whenever I worked with Pete Ventrella.  Pete and I go back a long ways. I first met him when I was working on Tales From the Crypt. Later we worked on a number of Lori Lovecraft stories together. These days he is producing DVD packages and developing a number of documentaries. The Planet of the Apes drawings I did for him when he was working at Deluxe. They were used in one of the box sets of the Ape films. 

 Another good friend, Anthony Diecedue helped with the computer coloring and designs on some of the backgrounds. Here's one of his finishes.

See you next week,



Friday, January 9, 2015

UPDATE 1/10l15

Long live Missy! We'll miss seeing you on walks.

It’s a New Year! Here’s hoping that everyone has a great 2015!

Last night I hosted a dinner for a couple of artist friends of mine who dropped by and we spent the evening talking about the independent comics that we are all producing. One of them was Henry Cram, who worked with me as an assistant for a while. It was good to see that the exposure didn’t completely destroy his artistic sensibilities. Actually, it was a treat to see just how much his work has developed over the years, and while he has a day job, he has continued to pursue the comics material on his own time. A true artist.

My other friend was Rod Dryden a longtime associate from Bill Stout’s Sunday morning drawing class. Rod spent his career working in advertising and theme park design and was one of the best in the business. He has never done comics. When he talked about his project a couple of years back, I gave him the standard “doing this stuff is tougher than it looks” speech. When I saw the material I immediately told him to ignore everything I had just told him. Let’s just say it was like going to local community theater group and discovering that Lawrence Olivier is one of your neighbors and in the cast. 
From left, Rod Dryden, myself, and Henry Cram

Hopefully, both of these gentlemen will provide me with the examples of their incredible work for a future entry on the blog. And yes, I am desperately trying to talk Henry (who is working with another of my former assistants, Scott Gordon) into using one of their stories for a backup feature in my Mad Mummy book. Details as it happens….

Most of the week I’ve been working frantically on creating new web pages for my emended I’m hoping that work on that is completed and the revised site is up and functioning by early Feburary.  At the same time I finished the rough draft of the script for Mad Mummy #7. And here are the latest creative efforts I’ve been working on lately.

In the process, the left third of this picture got cropped.

There is the illustration I did for my friend Tony Bellisario that I went to high school with in Pontiac, Michigan. Tony had the prettiest jump shot this side of Jerry West. He also refurbished and managed a restaurant for a few years in the old home town.  There are a couple of Clint Eastwood portraits. I was working on the first one and had reservations about how it was going when I received my copy of the new Al Parker book. After looking at that material I decided you can’t ever give less than your best efforts, so I started over and did a second piece that I was much happier with. Then I went back and tried a couple of solutions in the original painting and managed to save that…by literally chopping off part of the picture.

The Iron Maiden I did just because I was looking at some of the art of Wally Wood recently and realized  what an influence he was on my work. You can also see that in the finished black and white work on the cover of Mad Mummy 6. I’ve decided to start integrating more of the pencil line/tone in the finished artwork; it adds a bit of needed dimension  and tone. As you can can see below in the life drawings from my sketchbook, there is a freshness and spontaneity in the combination of pencil and ink in those drawings that I don’t always see in my comic book work. So I’m trying something a little different.

And in the world of the vanishing art supplies, I finally found someone who carries the Seth Cote newsprint in a smooth finish. I use this paper to do my daily still life warmups in the morning. All I’ve been able to find in the last year or so is a rougher finish. It keeps you from noodling too much, but there is a greater sensitivity you get on the smooth paper that I prefer.

I need to start sending out press releases on the Mad Mummy books as well as getting them in the hands of reviewers. Anyone with any helpful hints?